Saturday, April 7, 2012

Liquid Armor?

Forget Kevlar! Liquid Body Armor Hardens On Impact -- FOX News

A revolutionary new armor relies on a liquid that hardens when something hits it, promising unprecedented protection while letting soldiers move freely, unrestricted by bulk and weight. Protection for warriors has long meant weight and bulk from ceramic plates and Kevlar that cover large areas of the body but reduce maneuverability, agility and speed. And in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan, temperatures can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning heavy armor can also accelerate fatigue.

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My Comment: Impressive

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Here Comes The Humanoid Robots

As if existing robots, like the Army's Battlefield Extraction Assist Robot (BEAR), weren't humanoid enough -- Darpa wants next-gen robots to resemble us even more. Photo: U.S. Army

Military Wants Humanoid Robots In The Driver's Seat -- MSNBC/Innovation

New job demands include steering a vehicle and climbing a ladder.

A U.S. military agency once focused on self-driving robot cars has turned its attention to humanoid robots that could roam tomorrow's battlefields. An upcoming announcement suggests the military wants robots that can steer a vehicle from the driver's seat, use a key to open a locked door, climb a ladder and perform handyman repairs.

The robots must also have the brains to carry out their jobs with only loose supervision from humans, based on the unofficial leak of a new Grand Challenge for humanoid robots hosted by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Such details emerged from a talk by Gill Pratt of DARPA at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Industry Day held on March 20, according to the robotic news portal Hizook.

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More News On The U.S. Military wanting Humanoid Robots

DARPA seeks humanoid robots in Grand Challenge -- CNET
Darpa’s Next Grand Challenge: Build Us Lifelike, Humanoid Robots -- Danger Room
Humanoid Robot Creation Becomes New Focus for DARPA -- Tech & Biz
DARPA Wants Humanoid Robots That Can Drive Tractors, Open Doors and Save the Day -- Popular Science
Pentagon eyes 'human like' handyman robots: But why? -- RT
DARPA's next Grand Challenge to focus on humanoid robots -- Endgadget
The U.S military wants YOU, to build a humanoid robot -- Ubergizmo
New DARPA Grand Challenge to make humanoid robots -- Next Big Future

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Genetic Link To Autism

Photo: Researchers from the University of Washington analysed the DNA of children with autism and both of their parents Photo: ALAMY

New Genetic Link To Autism -- The Telegraph

Autistsm could develop in children with no family history of the condition due to genetic mutations which develop in older father's sperm cells, a new study shows.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is known to be strongly influenced by genetics because it often runs in families, but which genes are at fault and how strong a role they play remains unclear.

Now three studies of autistic children who had no family history of the condition suggest it could in some cases be caused by gene mutations which are not shared by either parent and occur for the first time in sperm or egg cells as they develop.

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A Cloud Operating System Takes Shape

Image: Data united: If everyone's mobile and desktop apps use the same cloud data store, collaboration and managing personal data becomes easier, says cloud startup Box.

A Cloud Operating System Takes Shape -- Technology Review

Cloud storage company Box says it can offer a universal data store to unite data spread across different mobile apps.

As the rise of mobile computing has made the dominance of Microsoft's Windows look shaky, some people wonder which alternative operating system will take its place.

A new service launched today by cloud storage startup Box (previously known as is intended to prove that it doesn't really matter. Box founder and CEO Aaron Levie claims that the next decade of computing won't be defined by one platform, but by the cloud service that can successfully link apps, users, and devices strung out across competing mobile and desktop operating systems.

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When AI Machines Overtake Man

When Creative Machines Overtake Man -- Kurzweilai

Machine intelligence is improving rapidly, to the point that the scientist of the future may not even be human! In fact, in more and more fields, learning machines are already outperforming humans. As noted in this transcript of a talk at TEDxLausanne on Jan. 20, 2012, artificial intelligence expert J├╝rgen Schmidhuber isn’t able to predict the future accurately, but he explains how machines are getting creative, why 40‚000 years of Homo sapiens-dominated history are about to end soon, and how we can try to make the best of what lies ahead.

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My Comment: The above video is a must see. Enjoy .... and be concern.

Earth Usually Has More Than One Moon

"Earthrise" seen by the Apollo 8 astronauts in December 1968. CREDIT: NASA.

Earth Usually Has More Than One Moon, Study Suggests --

Earth usually has more than one moon at any given time, according to the results of a new computer simulation.

The huge, bright and iconic moon so beloved by poets and romantics is joined by a rotating cast of captured asteroids that often measure just a few feet across. These mini-moons typically orbit Earth for less than a year before zipping back off into space, researchers said.

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The Russian's Have A 'Zombie Gun'

Putin Targets Foes With 'Zombie' Gun Which Attack Victims' Central Nervous System -- Daily Mail

* Could be used against Russia's enemies and perhaps its own dissidents

Mind-bending ‘psychotronic’ guns that can effectively turn people into zombies have been given the go-ahead by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The futuristic weapons – which will attack the central nervous system of their victims – are being developed by the country’s scientists.

They could be used against Russia’s enemies and, perhaps, its own dissidents by the end of the decade.

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My Comment: I suspect the Americans (and maybe the Chinese) have the same tech.

Inside America’s New Space Force

Smaller, Quicker, Secret, Robotic: Inside America’s New Space Force -- The Danger Room

The past and future of America’s space arsenal intersected, briefly, in the summer of 2011. For two weeks in July, NASA’s Space Shuttle Atlantis roughly shared its Earth orbit with the Air Force’s X-37B, a 29-foot-long, highly maneuverable robotic spacecraft that entered service in early 2010 and has been cloaked in secrecy ever since. The X-37 was around 80 miles higher than the Shuttle, so it’s doubtful the four-person Atlantis crew, conducting the 135th and last Shuttle mission, ever saw the robotic craft. The X-37′s small size — barely a quarter the length of Atlantis — made a sighting even less likely.

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My Comment: the X-37B is not the NASA space shuttle program .... but it is still impressive.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why Did DARPA Buy This Bomb Tech?

Dugan at TED

Investigation: Despite Repeated Failures, DARPA Bought Director's Family's Lousy Bomb Tech -- Popular Science

Generally when PopSci writes about DARPA we do so with enthusiasm, as the Pentagon’s far-out research arm tends to prod at the edges of what seems possible, even when it fails spectacularly. But when it fails institutionally, we have to acknowledge that even the storied Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is at a fundamental level a bureaucracy prone to the same problems and inefficiencies as any other bureaucracy. With that, point you toward a piece by the crew over at Danger Room, who today tell the tale of a seemingly huge DARPA fail.

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My Comment: Favoritism at play here?

Where Does Human Consciousness Begin?

This image shows one returning from oblivion -- imaging the neural core of consciousness. Positron emission tomography (PET) findings show that the emergence of consciousness after anesthesia is associated with activation of deep, phylogenetically old brain structures rather than the neocortex. Left: Sagittal (top) and axial (bottom) sections show activation in the anterior cingulate cortex (i), thalamus (ii) and the brainstem (iii) locus coeruleus/parabrachial area overlaid on magnetic resonance image (MRI) slices. Right: Cortical renderings show no evident activations. (Credit: Turku PET Center)

Mystery of Human Consciousness Illuminated: Primitive Consciousness Emerges First as You Awaken from Anesthesia -- Science Daily

ScienceDaily (Apr. 4, 2012) — Awakening from anesthesia is often associated with an initial phase of delirious struggle before the full restoration of awareness and orientation to one's surroundings. Scientists now know why this may occur: primitive consciousness emerges first. Using brain imaging techniques in healthy volunteers, a team of scientists led by Adjunct Professor Harry Scheinin, M.D. from the University of Turku, Turku, Finland in collaboration with investigators from the University of California, Irvine, USA, have now imaged the process of returning consciousness after general anesthesia. The emergence of consciousness was found to be associated with activations of deep, primitive brain structures rather than the evolutionary younger neocortex. These results may represent an important step forward in the scientific explanation of human consciousness.

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My Comment: This is impressive work .... unfortunately more is needed.

One More Reason To Drink Red Wine

A compound found in red wine, grapes and other fruits, and similar in structure to resveratrol, is able to block cellular processes that allow fat cells to develop, opening a door to a potential method to control obesity. (Credit: © OlgaLIS / Fotolia)

Potential Method to Control Obesity: Red Wine, Fruit Compound Could Help Block Fat Cell Formation -- Science Daily

ScienceDaily (Apr. 4, 2012) — A compound found in red wine, grapes and other fruits, and similar in structure to resveratrol, is able to block cellular processes that allow fat cells to develop, opening a door to a potential method to control obesity, according to a Purdue University study.

Kee-Hong Kim, an assistant professor of food science, and Jung Yeon Kwon, a graduate student in Kim's laboratory, reported in this week's issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry that the compound piceatannol blocks an immature fat cell's ability to develop and grow.

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My Comment: Hmmm .... that's probably the reason some of my heavy wine drinker friends are thin.

Here Comes The Flying Cars

Terrafugia's Transition -- a flying car -- takes flight. (Terrafugia / April 3, 2012)

Flying Car Is Unveiled, But Really, How Practical Is It? -- L.A. Times

A flying car is being unveiled this week at the New York Auto Show, and we can't help but wonder: If the roads are jam-packed with crazy drivers now, what would it be like if they all had flying cars?

The manufacturer, Terrafugia of Woborn, Mass., reports that it's already received more than 100 preorders for its flying car -- the Transition. The $279,000 dual-use vehicle sports folding wings and rugged, all-terrain wheels that will allow it to transition smoothly from the driveway to the roadway to the runway and beyond.

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World's Highest Bridge Opens

Dizzying: Labourers put the finishing touches to the Anzhaite Long-span Suspension Bridge in Jishou, Hunan, China, this week, just in time for its opening

World's Highest Bridge Meets The World's Most Lax 'Elf And Safety Rules: Daredevil Chinese Workers Put Finishing Touches To Amazing New Structure -- Daily Mail

This hard-grafting painter may have climbed the ladder to a career high... but one mistake and it's a hard fall back to where he started.

Labourers put the finishing touches to the Anzhaite Long-span Suspension Bridge in Jishou, Hunan, China, this week, just in time for its opening.

And at 1,102ft up and 3,858ft across the ambitious suspension bridge has become the highest and longest in the world.

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My Comment: Impressive bridge.

The U.S. Army's Mechanical Mule Is Too Noisy

Mechanical Mule Makes Itself Sort Of Useful -- Strategy Page

April 1, 2012: The U.S. Army's latest design of, well, a mechanical mule for the infantry spent the last three months being tested in Afghanistan. Four of these vehicles were sent there to operate with the troops. The SMSS (Squad Mission Support System) is a six wheeled, 1.7 ton vehicle that can carry 544 kg (1,200 pounds) of cargo and will follow whoever is carrying its controller and can operate by itself for short distances.

The SMSS had passed most of its tests in the United States and was then used by some troops with combat experience. There it was discovered that the vehicle was too noisy for patrol work (which is what infantry spent most of their time doing out in the bush). The noise issue was noted earlier, the manufacturer reduced it somewhat and added the capability to run very quietly for a short while. But this was not enough because troops in the field noted that even with no engine noise, the sound of the vehicle moving and breaking branches as it moved was enough to alert any nearby enemy.

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My Comment: The number one problem with this tool in the battlefield is noise .... a problem that is not going ot be solved soon.

Oceans Have Been Warming For 135 Years Ago

The researchers compared ocean-temperature data collected in the 1870s by the Challenger vessel with modern data collected by the Argo project, which uses 3,500 free-drifting floats (one of which is shown here) to measure temperature and salinity. CREDIT: Argo Project

Oceans Started Warming 135 Years Ago, Study Suggests -- Live Science

The world's oceans have been warming for more than 100 years, twice as long as previously believed, new research suggests.

The findings could help scientists better understand the Earth's record of sea-level rise, which is partly due to the expansion of water that happens as it heats up, researchers added.

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The Psychology Behind New Casino Designs

The Psychology Of Casinos -- Frontal Cortex

In a recent New Yorker, I profiled Roger Thomas, the head of design for Wynn Resorts. Thomas is a remarkably talented interior designer – he’s received nearly every accolade in the field – but I was most interested in the way Thomas has reinvented the modern casino, creating lovely and relaxing spaces that encourage people to squander their cash. (I’ve long believed that success in Vegas requires an intimate understanding of human nature – it’s not easy getting people to enjoy games that are stacked against them.) Here’s the lede:

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My Comment: This is more evidence that the house always wins

Monday, April 2, 2012

How Machine Intelligence Is Evolving

Marcus du Sautoy with one of Luc Steels's language-making robots. Photograph: Jodie Adams/BBC

AI Robot: How Machine Intelligence Is Evolving -- The Guardian

No computer can yet pass the 'Turing test' and be taken as human. But the hunt for artificial intelligence is moving in a different, exciting direction that involves creativity, language – and even jazz.

'I propose to consider the question "Can machines think?"' Not my question but the opening of Alan Turing's seminal 1950 paper which is generally regarded as the catalyst for the modern quest to create artificial intelligence. His question was inspired by a book he had been given at the age of 10: Natural Wonders Every Child Should Know by Edwin Tenney Brewster. The book was packed with nuggets that fired the young Turing's imagination including the following provocative statement:

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World's First Flexible E-Paper Display To Be Mass Manufactured

LG Display Begins Mass Production of World's First Plastic E-Paper Display

LG Begins Mass Production Of World's First Flexible E-Paper Display -- Hot Hardware

LG has officially begun the process of mass producing the world's first plastic electronic paper display (EPD) that is designed to be used in eBooks. LG's EPD measures 6 inches and offers a resolution of 1024x768. This display offers a paper-like reading experience on a plastic substrate that is as slim as cell phone protection film. The film is flexible and can be bent at a range of 40 degrees from the center of the screen. LG Display's plastic EPD is just 0.7mm thick, which is 1/3 slimmer than current glass EPDs. It weighs 14g, or about 0.49 ounces.

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My Comment: Impressive.

Oldest Surviving Musical Composition

Seikilos Epitaph - Song of Seikilos -- Diana Hsieh

The Seikilos epitaph is the oldest surviving example of a complete musical composition, including musical notation, from anywhere in the world. The song, the melody of which is recorded, alongside its lyrics, in the ancient Greek musical notation, was found engraved on a tombstone, near Aidin, Turkey (not far from Ephesus). The find has been dated variously from around 200 BC to around AD 100.

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My Comment: An incredible piece of music.

Human Ancestors Were Using Fire A Million Years Ago

Rock art in Wonderwerk cave 40km from Kuruman Northern Cape South Africa: Ash found in a layer dated at a million years old hints that inhabitants of the cave were using fire a million years ago

Human Ancestors Were Using Fire A Million Years Ago - 300,000 Years Earlier Than Previously Thought -- Daily Mail

* Ash found among bones and burned plants in South African cave
* Key moment in human evolution
* Hints that ancestors as early as homo erectus might have used fire

One of the turning points in human evolution occurred 300,000 years earlier than previously believed.

Traces of ash mixed with million-year-old bones and tools have been uncovered in the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa.

Burned plants and bones were found in the cave, suggesting that its inhabitants cooked and perhaps even socialised around camp fires.

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My Comment: We were apparently more smarter than what we thought we were 1 million years ago.

The End Of America's Space Program

High Joblessness In The Home Of U.S. Space Flight -- CBS News 60 Minutes

CBS News) When the last space shuttle took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in July -- when the crowds left and 7,000 space center workers lost their jobs -- what happened to Brevard County, Florida? Scott Pelley tells the story of a county struggling with the loss of its largest employer, and of former shuttle workers who miss both the paycheck and the deep pride they had in their work.

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My Comment: With the demise 0f America' space/industrial/infrastructure, my prediction is that it will be the military industrial infrastructure that will be next.

Who Is The Happiest In The World

Happiness Tops In Denmark, Lowest In Togo, Study Says -- L.A. Times

Are you happy? It's a question that economists and pollsters are asking all over the world, hoping to gain new insight into what brings us joy -- and why people answer differently in different countries.

Bhutan is leading an international meeting Monday at the United Nations, seeking to establish “next steps towards realizing the vision of a new well-being” that include gauging happiness in different nations. The Asian country already has a national happiness index, and is urging others to follow suit.

How happy is your country? In a report released for the meeting, economists John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs round up what is known about happiness around the globe.

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Nuclear Powered Drones On The Horizon?

US Draws Up Plans For Nuclear Drones -- The Guardian

Technology is designed to increase flying time 'from days to months', along with power available for weapons systems.

American scientists have drawn up plans for a new generation of nuclear-powered drones capable of flying over remote regions of the world for months on end without refuelling.

The blueprints for the new drones, which have been developed by Sandia National Laboratories – the US government's principal nuclear research and development agency – and defence contractor Northrop Grumman, were designed to increase flying time "from days to months" while making more power available for operating equipment, according to a project summary published by Sandia.

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My Comment: While the idea of having drones fly for days on end is appealing .... the fact that it would be a nuclear power source that will be used will .... to put it bluntly .... be enough to kill the program .... regardless of the merits.

New Widespread Internet Surveillance Laws To Be Proposed In England

Internet Activity 'To Be Monitored' Under New Laws -- The Ttelegraph

Ministers are preparing a major expansion of the Government's powers to monitor the email exchanges and website visits of every person in the UK, it was reported today.

Under legislation expected in next month's Queen's Speech, internet companies will be instructed to install hardware enabling GCHQ – the Government's electronic "listening" agency – to examine "on demand" any phone call made, text message and email sent, and website accessed in "real time", The Sunday Times reported.

A previous attempt to introduce a similar law was abandoned by the former Labour government in 2006 in the face of fierce opposition.

However ministers believe it is essential that the police and security services have access to such communications data in order to tackle terrorism and protect the public.

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Update: Police and MI5 get power to watch you on the web -- Independent

My Comment
: So much for privacy in England.